Nearly 600 state house tenants removed after end of 'house for life' policy
Nearly 600 state house tenants have been kicked out of their homes after the end of the Government's "state house for life" policy.
Wellington couple Vladimir Zvegintsev and Tatiana Zvegintseva, who moved to their Seatoun house as Russian political refugees in 1998, have questioned the fairness of the policy after being told they must leave their home of 18 years.
The couple received a letter from the Ministry of Social Development in February informing them they no longer qualified for their two-bedroom state house.
In 2014 the Government's "house for life" policy ended, with tenancy reviews taking place for those who pay near market rent to see whether they can afford a private rental.
Figures released by Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett's office showed that 573 state house tenants had been moved out of their homes following a review.
Of those, 445 had moved into a private rental, 66 had bought their own homes, 49 had left for undisclosed reasons, and 13 had been forced out after refusing to leave and losing an appeal.
Another 622 had been allowed to stay after the review found they were eligible for state housing, while there were over 3000 reviews still underway.
Bennett said she did not know all the details of the couple's case, but tenancy reviews helped to free up homes for those who were "quite desperate" for government support.
"From what I've read so far, certainly someone that's been in there for 18 years and been given substantial subsidies from the Government, they're obviously no longer eligible, so we're asking those that can afford to go into a private market to do that, so that we can make sure that social housing's available for our most vulnerable."
'MONTHS, NOT WEEKS'
Ending tenancies often took "months, not weeks" as Housing New Zealand gave people a chance to respond, while there were a number of support services in place to help tenants move into a private home.
"Often people haven't saved for a bond, or saved for a letting fee, so that's available, and we've spent significant amounts of money on that already."
State housing tenants who were moved into private rentals received an average of $1800 in financial support for moving and tenancy costs, Bennett said.
Vladimir and Tatiana are appealing the decision to remove them, saying they had been model tenants and did not want to abandon the sense of community they had built during their time in the house.
Tatiana said it was a "total lie" to suggest that the couple shouldn't be eligible for a state house, as they earned less than the income threshold.
They had written to Bennett and Housing NZ, as they had not received a proper review of their situation.
Tatiana said the couple would not make any plans to leave until they understand the reason why they were being asked to leave.
"We're not actually planning anything for the future until we have a proper answer from them."
Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive Carl Crafar said he could not comment on the the case because the couple had requested a review of the ministry's decision that they were no longer eligible for social housing.
"It is not appropriate for us to comment until this review is completed," he said.